Apology for 'piracy confession' scheme lacks a lot

Explanation of scheme that impersonated Twitter users shows company doesn’t get it


Yesterday I wrote about Enfour's outrageous attempt to shame software pirates through impersonated "confession" tweets and all the blowback that resulted when paying customers - including the magician Teller of Penn & Teller fame -- found themselves caught up in the scheme.

(Sorriest Tech Companies of 2012)

This morning I received a longer apology and explanation from the company ... and I feel it requires some translation. Here's how it starts:   

On November 1, 2012, a version of the UniDict® iOS software revealed a bug that has embarrassed both our users and our company. We are sincerely sorry for the uproar and the bad feelings our customers have experienced. To everyone affected, we offer our humble apologies.

Translation: We apologize for the fact that our scheme went awry (as opposed to apologizing for the scheme itself).

On the morning of November 1, customers had an unpleasant surprise if they opened the app and let it go to sleep before it was closed. Upon waking, a dialog box showed "Run in Safe Mode" then the app disabled itself and performed an auto soft close. A notification appeared locally on the device and if the user had authorized the app to access their Twitter account, a tweet of the notification was sent out under their account with a hash tag #softwarepiracyconfession. This tweet only happened if the user tapped a send confirmation button.

Translation: Users contributed to bringing this "unpleasant surprise" upon themselves by not paying close enough attention. (And you should know that the company's description of the course of events varies greatly with that of those paying customers who were victimized.)

As soon as we realized there was a problem, we corrected it by removing the anti-piracy module and working with Apple to get the patched version online for download. It was available before close of business on November 1. At no time was the device itself or personal information compromised; there was no virus, no unofficial APIs, no hacking and no malware involved. If the user opened up the app after updating, it worked normally.

Translation: We sent impersonated "piracy confession" tweets from customer Twitter accounts but do not consider that compromising personal information or hacking.

Nevertheless, a number of users with certain system configurations were affected during this time period. Some may still be if they haven't updated to the fixed version. If you are not running the latest version, we urge you to update your app immediately to avoid the potential embarrassment of an unexpected tweet.

Translation: You need to fix this yourself; download the upgrade; you can trust us, after all.

Combatting piracy is challenging. As a small family-owned company with few employees every lost sale impacts our livelihood and our ability to continue developing apps that we are passionate about. Piracy of Enfour products happens at an astonishing rate. We have seen a 1:100 ratio of legal to pirated copies of our software. Ouch.

Translation: We're the real victims here.

We can't thwart truly determined hacker and crackers, but we wanted to possibly shame those who were opportunistically stealing our software. Just like installing a shop-lifting alarm in a store, we thought we were being creative with a notification and a timed tweet for users of a cracked app.

Translation: Huh? What? No. It's more like attempting to install a shop-lifting alarm in a shoplifting suspect's home ... and getting the wrong address ... hundreds of times.  That's not creative, it's insane.

In retrospect, this was not the wisest choice. The bug that revealed this creative indiscretion was a screwup and we accept full responsibility. We have tried to reach as many affected people as possible using social media via our personal accounts as well as via our website and also the iTunes store -all in multiple languages. We have taken all possible steps to ensure that our customers are never affected again.

Translation: I'm done with the translations. ... Not the wisest choice? NOT THE WISEST CHOICE? How about using these few words instead of all those words? "We lost our minds for a time and cannot possibly explain why. What we did, even had it worked as we envisioned, was simply wrong and inexcusable. We apologize. And we hope that people will find it in their hearts to give us another chance."

Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

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